Bank asks court to dismiss lawsuit filed by Black woman who says staff refused to cash jackpot check

In its denial motion, Fifth Third Bank of Livonia, Michigan, said the situation involving Lizzie Pugh's $12,000 jackpot check had nothing to do with race.

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Fifth Third Bank is requesting that the court dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by 71-year-old Lizzie Pugh, who claims she was mistreated by three white staffers who accused her of trying to deposit a fake jackpot check for $12,206.84.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Fifth Third of Livonia, Michigan, claims in its 23-page response filed in U.S. District Court, that its staff members involved were doing their jobs, and the incident was a misunderstanding that had nothing to do with race.

Bank spokesman Ed Loyd explained Wednesday in a statement that, as part of its fraud prevention measures, the bank employee was attempting to confirm the check with Soaring Eagle Casino. He further stated that the bank has verified records of a call made from the branch to the casino on the April afternoon.

Fifth Third Bank claims the April incident involving Lizzie Pugh’s $12,000 jackpot check, when staffers refused to deposit it, was a misunderstanding that had nothing to do with her race. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/News 5 Cleveland)

“From our review of the claims, we believe our employees’ actions were well intentioned and have been misinterpreted,” the statement read, according to The Free Press. “That said, we regret Ms. Pugh has come away feeling mistreated after her interactions at our branch. We never want someone to feel that way. Our employees’ actions were consistent with our process and the dual goals of serving our customers while also preventing potential frauds that can victimize both the bank and our customers.”

TheGrio previously reported that Pugh, a Detroit public schools retiree who migrated to the city from Alabama in 1971, allegedly told the first pair of Fifth Third Bank employees she encountered to open an account and deposit the check on April 11 — two days after she won the jackpot — and that her check was valid. She had even given them a copy of her license and told them she was retired.

The check featured Pugh’s name and the same residential address that appears on her identification, as well as the Soaring Eagle Casino logo, address and the words “SLOT JACKPOT” on the memo line.

Instead of processing the check, the bankers called in a third employee, who backed up their accusations and told Pugh they would not be returning the check to her.

“I couldn’t really believe they did that to me,” Pugh said in an interview with The Free Press. “I was devastated. I kept asking, ‘How do you know the check is not real?’ … And they just insisted that it was fraudulent … I was just terrified.”

Deborah Gordon, Pugh’s attorney, believes the bank mistreated her client because she is Black. The Free Press reported that Gordon referred to the bank’s recent explanation as a “bunch of bulls–t,” pointing out that three Fifth Third staffers told a customer her check was fake, wouldn’t open an account as requested, and initially refused to return her winnings.

“Her concern in leaving is they would not return her check. They had it in the back office, and she kept begging them to call the casino. In the meantime, they had taken her check from her,” said Gordon of her client, according to The Free Press.

“They refused the transaction with her, and she had to leave and go elsewhere,” Gordon added. “Why couldn’t they open an account for her? Obviously, they assumed fraud, and they didn’t want to do business with her.”

Gordon also refuted claims from the bank that it handled the situation properly, adding that her client was able to take the check down the street to Chase Bank and deposit it right away.

Pugh’s lawsuit requests an unspecified amount in damages from Fifth Third. In its denial motion, the only admission bank officials made was that the check was returned to Pugh at her request.

“Fifth Third denies all allegations of the complaint … (and) respectfully requests that this court enter an order dismissing plaintiff’s case in its entirety,” the bank’s filing states, “and awarding Fifth Third costs, interest, attorney fees and any other relief that is warranted under the circumstances.”

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